Tag Archives: Apartheid

Stuctural and personal violence: Israel’s relationship with Palestinians

Dear Reader, I return to a topic that is much neglected in mainstream media. It is also a matter of some sensitivity for many, and for many reasons. Whilst it is not necessarily hard to discern the motives and objectives of key state interests in maintaining and enriching, beyond all conscience, an apartheid regime, for many individuals the subject is of visceral significance, one of deep personal commitments, born of a mix of personal histories,  motives and affiliations.

It is also an issue subject to massive distortions – of truth, of ethics, of conceptual muddles – that litter the terrain with metaphorical landmines, overseen by vigilant and aggressive metaphorical drones. The adage ‘sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me’ has no purchase here.

The subject is Palestine/Israel. Over the coming weeks I hope to discuss aspects of the issue. Inevitably, for some, some words will sting.     

The democratic state of Israel

Like a toxic thread, cruelty runs through Israel’s dealings with Palestinians, perhaps most particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem and Gaza.  Be you Palestinian child, woman or man, its coarse rasp will demean, humiliate, wound or kill you. Daily.

Guardian report, 5 November 2020:Demolitions used as a ‘key means’ to ‘coerce Palestinians to leave their homes’

Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have razed a Palestinian village, leaving 73 people – including 41 children – homeless, in the largest forced displacement incident for years, according to the United Nations….Three-quarters of the community lost their shelters during Tuesday’s operation…making it the largest forced displacement incident in more than four years.

However, by the number of destroyed structures, 76, the raid was the largest demolition in the past decade, she [UN spokesperson] added.

On Wednesday, families from the village were seen rifling through their wrecked belongings in the wind, with some of the first rain of the year arriving the same day.

Two strategic objectives

None of this is random, an unintended consequence or miscalculation.  It is the logic of a founding ideology systematically going about its work: State Zionism. State Zionism’s strategic rationale and purpose are essentially twofold:

One, to create and maintain a specifically Jewish State – that is, a state with a built-in, perennial Jewish majority – within Israel’s boundaries. This requires the containment and removal of significant numbers of the indigenous Palestinian population. The only way to achieve this is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians. Daily.

Two, significant Israeli political forces hold that Israel’s ultimate geographical boundary properly includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem; that is, the land between the Green Line1 and Jordan River. On this land Israel has built illegal Jews-only Settlements2– colonies, properly called – and aims to formally annexe all or part of the West Bank at some point3.  

The only way to achieve an expansion of Israel’s borders whilst ensuring a Jewish majority or iron grip control of the area – approximately three million Palestinians live in the West Bank – is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians.  Daily.

The West Bank and Gaza comprise the Palestinian Occupied Territory.

Recent publicity suggesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu has put to one side his intention to annexe additional swathes of Palestinian territory is little more than window dressing.  Much of the West Bank, and all of East Jerusalem, are to all intent and purposes de facto annexed. Israel’s writ and reach in practice extends to the entirety of the West Bank; and it maintains a suffocating seige of Gaza. ‘Israel’s writ’ refers to the OPT being under military rule, enforced by a brutal Israel Defence Force (IDF) inflicting Israel’s will on Palestinian childen, women and men.

As the Guardian news item above demonstrates, Israel is and has been pursuing a policy of annexation by other means i.e. demolishing villages and individual homes; population dissplacement, and ensuring Palestinian villages have no access to water and other essential utilities.  Meanwhile, the Settlements – colonies – are richly endowed with new and developing infrastructure – all on stolen Palestinian land.

Defence for Children International: Palestine Ramallah, August 21, 2020

Israeli forces shot and detained a 16-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday night in the occupied West Bank and informed his family the next day that he was dead.

Late Wednesday night, three Palestinian teenagers approached a road used by Israeli settlers near the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Meshal, located northwest of Ramallah, seemingly to throw stones or Molotov cocktails, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Israeli forces in a nearby concealed position opened-fire with live ammunition injuring all three boys

UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

 So far in 2020, 689 structures have been demolished across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, more than in any full year since 2016; rendering 869 Palestinians homeless.

The two strategic purposes outlined above are predicated on the ‘Judaisation’ – ugly word; ugly concept – of the ‘historical, biblical’ Land of Israel.

In addition to, as a matter of policy and daily practice, displacing as many as possible of the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel ensures that those Palestinians not displaced are nevertheless hemmed in by structural and legal barriers such that anything resembling full, equal citizenship on the same terms as the Jewish population is, and always will be, impossible to achieve. 

Military Court Watch: Monitoring the treatment of children in military detention

Children in military [note ‘military’] detention as of 31 August 2020: 135

Nationality Law

The corrupted State ideology delineated above is enshrined in Israel’s 2018 Nationality Law. In fact, the racist, apartheid basis of the Jewish Israeli state had been embedded in earlier legislation and organisational arrangements such as, for example, in the Jewish National Fund (JNF)  which holds or controls vast tracts of land which can only be settled by Jews.   

Israel is as it is because it is allowed to be so

Precisely because the Nationality Law was not strictly necessary there is, arguably, a performative aspect to its purpose. It can be seen as Israel confirming to itself and other state and civil society actors that it is immune to censor or consequence, no matter which norms of international behaviour or common decency are breached.

Israel is enmeshed in a web of American, British and European state and quasi-state enterprises along with academic research, much of it military, all seemingly sanctified by a somewhat mystical International Community. In other words, the much vaunted democratic west is pock-marked and stained by its active support of what should be a pariah state.

Subsequent posts will flesh out the degree to which western complicity is not only maintaining, but bolstering, Israel’s apartheid state regime.

But….

But neither the past, nor the present, are binding upon the future. In an admittedly almost entirely bleak vista, there are Palestinians and Jewish Israelis working to break out of the binary, zero sum game such that what is good for Palestinians must be bad for Jewish Israelis; and what is bad for Palestinians must be good for Jewish Israelis.  Paradoxically perhaps, these moves are not so much a forging of new ideas, but are rather a return to, and renewal of, a more generous faith and a more inclusive, expansive  vision.

Of which, more anon.  



[1] The ‘Green Line’ currently delineating Israel from the OPT is in fact the 1949 Armistice Line

[2] Some 465,000, and rising, Israeli Jews live in Settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

[3] Israel annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem soon after the six day war (June 1967)


Palestine/Israel: What oppression looks like

I have just returned from a trip to Palestine/Israel. My purpose: to understand more; to interview/have conversations with people; to report back to those who might already be interested and, fond hope, to encourage more widespread interest – and action. 

The bulk of my time was spent in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), taking the opportunity to have conversations in Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Hebron.

The Palestine/Israel conflict receives relatively sparse coverage in the mainstream media and where it does, coverage seems to me and many others to lean heavily towards an Israeli state narrative that seeks to frame the conflict in terms of  Israel’s security concerns, terrorist threat and the absence of a Palestinian ‘partner for peace’. One aim of this and the next post(s) is to attempt, in however minor a way, to offer a counter narrative that helps illuminate the institutionalised viscousness of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Having said that, most of the examples I offer in these posts cover the West bank and illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

Israel society is, for the present, ensnared in the current regime. This has got to change. 

The one thing the current Israeli regime fears is loss of  international support, in particular of  the USA, UK, and EU.  Israel’s occupation, and it’s colonising programme are utterly dependent on the willingness of the USA, UK, EU to  actively support it (see Trump’s USA, but in fact practically every administration), turn a blind eye, or to offer ritualised statements of regret at this or that incident or policy, with no further consequence. Yet all these countries have to hand the levers that can help contrain, and turn round the worsening situation.  

This post offers a little backround to the conflict, and a few examples of  what Israeli policy means in practice. It’s not pretty.  Subsequent post(s) will offer a commentry on the situation and try to expose some of its essential, underlying features.  

We start in Occupied East Jerusalem:

Hashimi Hotel, Old City (Palestinian) Jerusalem, 25 October 2018. in the part of Jerusalem illegally annexed by Israel in 1967 after the six day war of that year

I’m writing this from the rooftop terrace – by no means a ‘luxury’ terrace, but fine – of the hotel with a view of the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Islam after Mecca and Medina.  The hotel has quite a number of Muslim pilgrims based here.

Jerusalem is awash with a variety of pilgrimage groups from virtually everywhere in the world.  You can’t walk in the Old City without encountering a snake of seemingly welded-together pilgrims on their way to Al Aqsa or, this for Christians, walking the Via Dolarosa  (the Way of Tears) and pausing at each of the Stations of the Cross.  There is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over what is believed to be the site both of Jesus’s crucifixion and his burial tomb, a site for often emotional veneration.

Jews (my lot, in general terms) are at it too, for they head towards the Wailing Wall which is ‘a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall’.  Together, the entire area incorporating the Western Wall and the Al Aqsa Mosque is known as Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.  This is an area of sharp contention, religious passion and naked political power games, further destabilised by virtue of Israel’s annexation of the city and its own less than commendable agenda. Which I shall no doubt come to.

Welcome?

Not infrequently, one can get a sense of a place, a sense of ‘what’s going on’ by way of a series of vignettes, actual incidents that illustrate, in shorthand form, essential features of a wider canvass. I was at the threshold of the country, queuing at passport control to enter Israel.  The manner of greeting can say a lot about the nature of a home.

My queue contained a group – a family group: mum, daughter, three lads, probably in their twenties – all obviously Muslim. The lads had what I suppose we think of as typical beards, one or two wore skull caps, and one had that long garment, the name of which escapes me.  I was next to them and so heard them talking – talking in northern British accents and clutching their British Passports ready for examination. We started chatting.

They were already prepared for some at least not to be allowed through passport control without being interviewed, and perhaps denied entry.  Sure enough, the three lads were turned back and walked past me smiling as they went to the interview area. Mum and daughter got through. Continue reading

So what’s new? Israel’s Nationality Law

Israel’s parliament (Knesset) has this July passed its Nationality Law by sixty two votes to fifty five. In brief, it enshrines, and in effect crows about, Israel’s status as an apartheid state.

The law confirms that ‘Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it’. Note ‘exclusive’.  In addition, the Arabic language is downgraded from its co-equal status as an official language with Hebrew to a lesser ‘special status’.  By way of reminder, Israel’s Palestinian Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the nine million population.

The law also affirms that ‘The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.’  Note ‘Jewish’. Note, too, ‘settlement’, which in fact refers to the construction of Jewish-only colonies built on historic Palestinian land cleared by Israel in an unrelenting programme of house demolitions, land seizures, and crop destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in (illegally annexed) East Jerusalem. Continue reading